Telling stories

I’ve been coming across a lot of references people are making to telling stories… what stories we tell ourselves, what stories others tell us… what stories we want our lives to embody.

Once upon a time, I was big into stories. I wrote constantly, and much of what I wrote was stories — fiction, non-fiction… just accounts that were meaningful to me. Sometimes others found them meaningful — when I showed them to others. Most of the time, I kept them to myself. They were my stories, and I didn’t want  anyone else meddling in them.

I continue to write, but now I share my stories. I do a whole lot more writing online, than in my onetime journals, and it’s good. It’s a good development. Looking  back at all my past journals, I’m amazed at how circular I was — rehashing the same topics over and over and over and over and… well, you get the point.

I have that problem a lot less, now that I’m putting what I write out in public.

Keeps me honest.

It’s good for me.

And I’ve been thinking it might be good for me to do more of this writing — along different lines. I’ve written books before, and it’s strangely easy for me to collect several hundred pages of words that hang together well. I’ve written under pseudonyms, to keep my writing identity safe and sound, and the material I’ve written has gotten good reviews from some. And I think it might be time for me to write about growing up with TBI. I’ve been looking around some, and it doesn’t appear that there’s much literature out there about kids with head injuries — especially from the point of view of the child.

The books that I have come across about kids with TBI have been either non-fiction (I did find a really good one, the other week), or they’re biographical accounts/personal stories from the point of view of parents. Not much — that I’ve found — has been written by people who grew up with TBI.

Could be, people just want to put it all behind them and forget about it. I could see that. I feel that way, myself, sometimes. But then I think about all the parents and the kids out there who have experienced TBI — especially concussions in sports, which is so common — and I think, “Maybe this is something I need to NOT put behind me. Maybe it’s something I need to put out there in front of me.”

I’ve been feeling incredibly emotional, lately. My life is undergoing some significant changes, with my home life shifting and taking on new aspects of independence for both my spouse and me, and my job not being the most wonderful experience in the world. I’ve been waking up regularly at 3 a.m., with this nagging sense that I need to make some changes… just what those changes are, exactly, I’m not sure.

I know what I would like to do — have a lot more freedom to move and breathe and travel and enjoy my life (I haven’t had a real vacation in quite some time). I would really like to devote more of my time to this work of educating folks about TBI, writing about my life, informing people of the important details, helping survivors better understand themselves and manage their issues, and reassuring worried parents and spouses and friends that things don’t have to end badly. There is hope.

Yes, I know what I would like to do. I’m just not certain how to get there.

But writing this book will be a start. Yes, I think I’ll start here.

Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

4 thoughts on “Telling stories”

  1. BB,

    That would be an interesting book, from the child’s perspective. I recently started recasting a novel I’ve been working on (on and off) for some time with a head injury/ memory loss element – not to be trendy or whatever, but because I’ve begun to take stock of how much this injury has affected my, and thus this character’s (who is an alter ego of sorts) life. The subtle losses of memory, and the mind’s tricks to get around that loss, and yearning to fill in what can be felt but not touched, can lead you into some odd places that wouldn’t touch someone who had not experienced head injury.

    Perhaps the reason I haven’t written more is that it is a very difficult injury to see from the outside – ie you live so far inside it that it becomes a part of you, and separating experience from injury (if you know what I mean) becomes exceedingly difficult.

    I’ve been going through a pretty intense phase the last month and a half myself – really since the turn of the new year – and just woke up this morning, a little too early as usual, with a curious sense of peace I haven’t had in awhile. I used to have a theory, totally unsubstantiated, that periods of intense turbulence and in particular insomnia – that awful three am kind where your body just feels twisted up and it takes hours to get back to sleep – that the neurons were re-connecting or channeling new paths. Even if it wasn’t/ isn’t true, it certainly feels that way, and I often felt afterward that something had shifted slightly in my personality.

    Have you heard of the book ‘Proust was a neuroscientist’? Analyzes how different writers, including Proust, handle memory. I glanced through it in the bookstore. Can’t afford to actually buy it right now, but it seemed to point in a couple of interesting directions.

    Anyway, good luck with the writing.



  2. I like the neuron theory. I think I’ll use it, myself 😉 Something’s gotta be redeemed from the experience.

    I haven’t heard of the Proust book — must check it out at the library. Fortunately, I live in an area with an extensive interlibrary loan program, so it’s way cool.

    Peace is good. I think I’m getting there. And yes, I am looking for remote work. I’m not up for starting my own business, right now, but I wouldn’t mind some telecommuting work. Or something with a team of folks who actually know how to work together.

    I think I’ll feel even more peaceful when some movement starts happening on the job front. Sunday never felt so long…


  3. I have read excerpts from the book – Proust often spoke about memory – here is a quote from Proust that I am fond of

    memory is a rope let down from heaven to draw me up out of the abyss of not-being

    Many writers speak of memory – Eilie Wiesel said that

    memory is a passion no less powerful or pervasive than love

    And from John Locke –

    without memory each of us would be no better than a looking glass which constantly receives a variety of images or ideas but retains none; they disappear and vanish, and there remain no footsteps of them, the looking glass the no better for such ideas.

    And William Blake –

    Tell me what is a thought and of what substance is it made?

    Perhaps what I find compelling about TBI (aside from the personal) is that it is the place where the philosopher and the neuroscientist meet, where psyche and soma enjoin. Long before I had an injury I studied neuroscience and learning, the unconscious mind and human will. Now I become my own subject.


  4. Interesting… I’ve been thinking a lot about memory, myself. How mine tends to play tricks on me — confabulation is a b*tch sometimes! — and how it is that I manage to get through the day, often without having a really clear memory of what happened half an hour before… unless I stop and think about it.

    It’s funny — the world we live in does not see particularly well-suited to making — or accessing — quality memories. Things move so quickly, and if I’m not fully involved in what I’m doing, my memory suffers. I need to be fully, 100% absolutely positively engaged in what I’m doing, for it to lodge in my memory. If I’m scattered, I’m highly pressured, or I’m not really involved in what’s going on, I find it difficult to recall what I’ve done.

    That being said, I’m looking for new ways to live my life. Ways that are much more mindful, that are much more involved, that are more in line with the way I want to live my life — not how others say I should. For as long as I can remember, I’ve taken cues from others, because, well, that’s what got me going and kept me going. It’s what gave my life order and purpose. It was also because I didn’t have the understanding about myself, to develop my own pace and direct my own life in ways that were consistent with ME.

    It’s complicated, and it’s not much fun figuring this out in my mid-40’s, when so much of my behavior is highly habituated — and the old ways of doing things have made me quite successful in certain aspects. But the old habits aren’t holding up. They never did, really — I was just on manic autopilot, trying to keep up, not giving much thought to much of anything, just happy I could maintain at least some semblance of normalcy, despite feeling like I was completely turned around half the time.

    Before, it didn’t matter if my memory was Swiss-cheesey. I was keeping up with the outside world, making a good show of things, and keeping up appearances.

    Now, however, I find myself much more interested in living my life for life’s sake — and making memories. Actual memories that are true to who and what I am. In the process of doing this, I’m finding a lot of old things falling away. Things that used to matter to me. Relationships that used to keep me going. Situations that used to energize me, but I now see were just there to keep me pumped up — so I could maintain my attention and stay involved in the rest of my life.

    It’s amazing to me, how much of my experience has been like a drug — stimulation for its own sake. Of course, it’s entirely in keeping with what my brain needs — it needs that stimulation to feel alert and alive. And when I gave my brain that constant pump, I did feel like “myself” — and I was. But if I hadn’t been so taxed all the time, I wouldn’t have needed that pump to prop me up.

    Now that I’ve found some strategies for waking myself up and keeping myself engaged, I no longer seek out those old situations that used to charge me up. They just don’t appeal to me anymore. And as a consequence, the people and other conditions that accompanied them are going away, as well.

    Course correction… It’s all good, ultimately. But it’s not the easiest transition.


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